Some Chinese workers planning to leave Pakistan over security reasons: analyst

Apr 1, 2024 12:01 am | News

Islamabad: The recent deadly attack on Chinese workers in Pakistan has shaken their confidence and some of them are planning to leave the country over security reasons, according to a security analyst. Muhammad Amir Rana in an article published in Dawn newspaper on Sunday wrote that the terrorist attack on the Chinese engineers’ vehicle on Tuesday, which killed five Chinese, is having consequences and Chinese companies have suspended work on at least three critical hydropower projects: the Dasu dam, the Diamer-Basha dam, and the Tarbela 5th Extension.

“The attack has caused significant alarm. Apart from disrupting these vital infrastructure projects, it has shaken the confidence of Chinese nationals working in Pakistan. Reports indicate some are considering leaving the country due to safety concerns,” he wrote.

Thousands of Chinese personnel are working in Pakistan on several projects being carried out under the aegis of the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Rana said that the Pakistani government has repeatedly pledged to bring the perpetrators to justice. However, the recent incident has eroded trust and Chinese social media reflects growing anxiety, with calls for stricter security measures to protect Chinese lives.

Whenever a major terrorist incident occurs in the country, the media, security experts, and even state institutions start to make sweeping generalisations and the first and most well-known excuse cited is foreign involvement in the attacks, especially those targeting Chinese nationals or CPEC-related projects.

Three names of terrorist groups spring to mind: Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Balochistan Liberation Army, and the Islamic State-Khorasan and the same is the case for the recent Shangla attack as the names of all three groups popped up immediately after the attack. The TTP has been projected as the prime suspect, as one of its commanders was declared the mastermind behind a similar attack on the Chinese in Kohistan in 2021, and the names of a few TTP commanders who may have orchestrated the attack are circulating in the media. Rana said Pakistan’s militant landscape may not be too complex but is diverse, where ideologies, sociopolitical factors, and group dynamics all work within local contexts. In any counterterrorism inquiry, local context and dynamics are more important than broader ideological and political motivations.

He said quickly jumping to conclusions distracts investigation and impacts the state’s ability to tackle the security situation comprehensively.

Rana opined that the state’s history of compromise with militant groups has emboldened them.

Shangla, upper and lower Kohistan, and Battagram districts of the Hazara region in KP and the adjoining Diamer district in Gilgit-Baltistan share religious, social, tribal, ethnic, and cultural codes. The region has been frequently in the news due to ‘honour’ killings, burning of girls’ schools, and the killing of Shia travellers. Recently, it has gained notoriety for attacks on Chinese workers involved in development projects in the area.

The locals support religious organisations, giving them financial and human resources, and weapons. Before receiving large compensation sums for the Dasu and Basha dams, the region thrived on timber smuggling.

Extremist tendencies in the region are stronger than those in the neighbouring areas.

Security institutions, bureaucracy, and the area’s political leadership have tried to run the administration through local jirgas and by involving religious scholars, which can result in leniency towards criminals, with many extremist elements taking the law into their own hands.

The Mujahideen Gilgit-Baltistan and Kohistan (MGB) are a prime example. The group claimed responsibility for several incidents in Kohistan and Diamer districts.

Although a prominent violent actor, it is not the only one in the region. The MGB and other local militant groups reportedly maintain close links with the TTP and sectarian outfits based in Punjab. These external groups appear to support local militants, as evidenced by the TTP’s involvement in the 2022 Babusar Pass blockade.

The government’s strategy of outsourcing the maintenance of order to local and external religious figures needs to be revised to address these sentiments and a more comprehensive approach is needed to calm tensions, according to the analyst.

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